Breaking Down Small Business and Retail's Shift to Fintech
Tim Draper is a trendspotter most famously known as founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, where he lead their investment in Skype. He’s also known as a thought leader for his book, The Startup Hero, and Draper University, his higher education institution. Finally, he even stars in his own television show, Meet The Drapers.
Today he’s what’s called a “Bitcoin Bull," because he holds his wealth in bitcoin instead of banks. As a result, he’s paid close attention to fintech solutions in Silicon Valley and is currently researching an emerging market many are calling “the DeFi bubble.” Fintech solutions are more than just a trend however; they’re becoming an essential part of every business.
“People are moving to bitcoin as a safe haven like gold," Draper recently shared with me. "And people are moving to bitcoin because it’s the future of commerce. I think if you go out four or five years, you’re going to try to buy a Starbucks coffee with some fiat currency tied to some government, and they’re going to laugh at you. You’re going to be the old person pulling little change pennies out of your purse."
And it’s not just consumers who are focused on leveraging these solutions. Together, consumers and businesses are adopting digital currencies and pushing circulation at a rapid pace, reaching more than $10 billion in May 2020, per a Coindesk post. This is especially true when evaluating companies like Visa and Mastercard’s elevated presence in the space.
In fact, according to a recent company blog post, Visa noted that it's continuing its work with licensed and regulated digital currency platforms like Coinbase and Fold to provide a bridge between digital currencies and their existing global network of 61 million merchants.
Elsewhere, Visa and its competitors have engaged policy makers and global organizations to help shape the dialogue and understanding of digital currencies, including Visa’s work with the World Economic Forum and a collaboration on a set of policy recommendations for central banks exploring the concept of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
From Crypto to Contactless
Long before the financial and health implications from COVID-19 accelerated a shift to these fintech solutions, retailers were increasingly offering cashless payment options as a way to improve the overall customer experience. But what started as a fun trend that married cutting-edge technology with brevity and efficiency at the point-of-sale has now become a global phenomenon, as businesses of all sizes continue embracing fin tech solutions to keep up with a digital-first culture.
As evidence to this rise in digital commerce, a new survey reveals that 78 percent of consumers have adopted new spending habits, forcing small businesses (SMBs) to adapt to burgeoning fintech solutions like tap-to-pay and contactless card options in order to survive.
But it’s not just SMBs that are adapting to these trends. Large retailers and restaurants must be willing to shift their approach to keep up with fintech solutions that meet current consumer demands. Take Dunkin’, a retailer that’s been at the forefront of enabling tap-to-pay technology in its locations around the U.S. In fact, according to another recent Visa blog post, the percentage of Dunkin’s in-store Visa transactions that occur with a tap of a card or mobile wallet has grown by more than 120 percent from June 2019 to June 2020.
But when digging deeper into the importance of leveraging fintech solutions, it isn’t just safety-first and touchless options that are emerging as imperatives. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency may be the next answer. Stablecoin accounts present a particularly good option for touchless commerce, allowing people to store their wealth in USD terms, while earning superiors yields to traditional checking accounts thanks to DeFi savings rates. And now users of stablecoins can spend their funds freely thanks to the many debit cards being rolled out from companies like Coinbase, Fold and Swipe.
“While DeFi provides great yields on stablecoins like Kava’s USDX, for example, it is currently limited to a tech savvy user base," Brian Kerr, CEO and co-founder of Kava Labs, the foundational protocol for modern financial applications, told me recently. "In the future, DeFi will look quite different as more financial institutions like Coinbase and Binance roll out debit card products, making USDX easily spendable in retail locations and making the lucrative DeFi yields more accessible to the average person."
This interest is taken a step further when considering retail demand for bitcoin is now expected to double by 2024. In fact, new data from ZUBR shows bitcoin accumulation by retail investors continues to surge despite economic downfalls, led largely by record growth in the number of bitcoin whales and a new all-time high in the number of wallet addresses containing less than one bitcoin. What’s more? Bitcoin recently achieved its third-best Q2 performance ever, showing sustained growth of investor participation amidst changing consumer demands and growing familiarity.
“I think all of these financial resources are going to eventually need to operate with bitcoin, and retailers should know it’s coming,” advises Draper. “If you're a retailer now and you're not accepting bitcoin, you should start reconsidering, because that's going to save you 2.5 to 4 percent compared to every time somebody swipes a credit card.”
And as a retailer, very thin margins mean every penny counts. “Why not use bitcoin?” reiterates Draper. “It’s frictionless, it’s free, it’s transparent, and it keeps reliable records of transactions.”
The small business and retail landscape are no doubt at a crossroads, yet optimism still exists. With change comes opportunity, and in the case of SMBs and retailers adapting to new fintech solutions, those opportunities are endless.